November 26, 2011

CrossFit and The Clock

As most CrossFitters know, CrossFit wouldn't be CrossFit without The Clock. It's what gives each workout the sense of urgency that it deserves, an aspect that's largely missing from other fitness regimens.

Take bodybuilding culture for example. Guys will do a set of reps, walk around for a bit, admire themselves in the mirror and then proceed to do their next set of isolation movements.

There's clearly something missing from this approach; there's not much being done to address the crucial fitness domains of stamina and cardiovascular/respiratory endurance. CrossFit, on the other hand, addresses this particular facet by having The Clock.

Harder, faster

By introducing the element of time domains, athletes are compelled to work harder and faster in order to complete the workouts as quickly as possible. Not only does this add a competitive element to each workout, it also provides a way for each individual to measure their own success and improvement over time. And just as importantly, regular efforts to reduce personal time domains helps to improve both stamina and cardiovascular endurance.

This can be somewhat of a shock to those new to CrossFit. The idea of doing sets of Olympic weightlift movements while on the clock is one of the most intimidating aspects of CrossFit -- but it's also what sets it apart from other fitness methodologies. It's one of the key reasons why it works.

Time domains

There are many ways in which The Clock can be utilized in CrossFit. Most workouts are 'for time' meaning that all the sets and rounds have to completed as quickly as possible. A particularly effective and valuable time schema is the Tabata workout in which participants work as hard as they can for twenty second intervals, typically followed by ten seconds of rest. Another technique is to have athletes do as many rounds as possible within specific time domains, some as short as a minute.

This can be extremely motivating, only because failing to hit the time targets can sometimes result in a longer and more arduous workout. I can remember a WOD in which we were required to do six box jumps (24") followed by squat-clean-to-thrusters (95lbs). The WOD was finished only when 65 squat-clean-to-thrusters were completed.

What made this WOD particularly deadly was that the box jumps started on the minute every minute. Failure to get a good quantity thrusters in meant that the WOD kept dragging on and you risked finding yourself constantly stuck in front of your box. This was one workout in which the clock had a profound impact on the nature of the workout and the level of intensity that had to be brought to it.

Indeed, most CrossFitters have a love/hate relationship with The Clock. There are times, say for a twenty minute workout, when you've been working your ass off for what you think is a decent span of time, you look at the clock and realize only five minutes have transpired. It's easy to get demoralized at times like that, but hey, that's CrossFit; time to get your inner game in order and push yourself through.

Track your progress

Another consequence of The Clock is that it's often hard to avoid comparing yourself to others—and this isn't always a bad thing—it can certainly help in placing your own performance and level of fitness in context.

But one thing I've learned is that, while it's important to look at other people's time in relation to your own, it's more important that you compare yourself to yourself. Otherwise, you have no sense of progress. Rather than obsess over your time in relation to others, it's a better idea to focus on competing against your previous efforts.

So, all ready to set a new PR?



nazgulnarsil said...

this is a simplistic view of physiology. there has been research into ideal rest time for strength training.

Crossfit seems like a really bad idea. We have many decades of experience in what builds very high levels of athleticism and none of it really looks like crossfit. Strength training, cardio, and muscular endurance are separate capabilities and can each be trained more effectively by focusing on them rather than trying to compromise and work all at once. Crossfit is certainly not bad in comparison to most fuckaround programs that do nothing, but the benefits of oly lifting are not maximized by doing them with light enough weights that you can get away with terrible form.

Unknown said...

I tend to agree with nazgulnarsil.

Crossfit just comes off as a little to cultish (IMHO) and a little bit "about the money".

I have no doubt it will get you in shape. Just not my cup of tea I guess.

I do the Oly lifts myself. Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Standing Press and Power Cleans.

That and some cardio and you're good to go.....IMHO.